By Valery Dzutsev
On June 13, the Caucasian Knot website unveiled information about a newly discovered mass grave in Chechnya. An estimated 20 people were killed in what appears to have been an extralegal execution during the first years of the second Russian-Chechen war that started in 1999. The mass grave site is located in Chervlyonnaya, a village in the Shelkovskoi district in northern Chechnya (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, June 13).
It is noteworthy that the locals reported the mass grave to the authorities only recently. According to Caucasian Knot, the locals themselves buried the gnawed remnants of the people they found around their village. The remnants could be identified only through DNA tests, but Chechnya does not have its own DNA identification facilities and it is not clear if the authorities will do the identification at all.
“No one can say how many such mass graves there are in Chechnya today,” an anonymous human rights activist told Caucasian Knot in an interview. According to the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammerberg, over 3,000 people disappeared in Chechnya between 2000 – 2009. According to Hammerberg, the Chechen authorities discovered 60 mass graves with the overall number of buried people above 3,000 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, June 13).
Mass graves are one of the important indicators of crimes against humanity. The latest finding in Chechnya raises the issue of military crimes that were committed in this territory and have remained uninvestigated. This climate of impunity is not simply unjust and abhorrent, but also, from a very practical standpoint, promotes lawlessness and invites repetitions of the same crimes.